The Problem Of Negative Self-Talk

There’s a steady stream of chatter in the background of most people’s minds.

It’s like having a TV or a radio on in the other room. We can hear it even if we’re not paying conscious attention to it. The problem is that we’re affected by what it’s saying even if we think we’re not really listening to it. So if the chatter is negative, we absorb the negativity and react to it emotionally even if we’re not aware it’s happening. It just becomes a part of our prevailing sense of mood and overall reality. So, as ever, awareness is key to The New Plan A, and this time we’re talking about awareness of the steady “commentary” we keep up in our heads, the things we tell ourselves moment-to-moment about ourselves, others, and what’s happening in our lives.

This “commentary,” or “story,” is entirely subjective and within our power to change.

But first, we’ve got to get more aware of what it is. Remember too that the stories we tell ourselves can (and usually do) change over time. The meaning we ascribe to things is entirely context-specific, “true” only in the context of the circumstances at hand. Consider the story of an old farmer who awakes in the morning to find that his only horse has run off in the night. His neighbors come around and commiserate. “How will you tend your fields?” They say. “What a terrible thing to have happened!”  But he replies, “Maybe. Maybe not.” And then the next week, the farmer discovers his horse with a herd of other horses and brings all of them back to his farm. That evening, his neighbors again come around, this time celebrating his good luck, to which he again replies only, “Maybe. Maybe not.” The next afternoon, as the farmer’s son tries to tame and ride one of the horses, he falls to the ground, breaking his leg. That evening, the neighbors are full of sympathetic laments. “Who will help you in the fields now? What an unfortunate thing to have happened!” they cry. To which the old farmer again replies only, “maybe, maybe not.” And then a few days later, the country goes to war and all of the able-bodied young men are sent to the front line to fight. The farmer’s son cannot go because of his broken leg. And that evening, the neighbors come around with prayerful gratitude for this life-saving twist of fate. “What good fortune,” they breathe. To which the old farmer replies only… well, you get the point. And the point, in relation to the possibility of improving your emotional well-being with the simple skills and practices of The New Plan A, is that awareness of your inner “story” and willingness to consider the possibility of alternate stories is within your grasp… easily, even… if you practice. Why not take a moment right now?